writing what I know

I would have a really hard time writing about living in Moscow in 1963. How would I describe what it looked like? what the culture was like? what was in the newspapers? what did people eat for dinner?  Imagination is a wonderful thing and fiction writers spend a large part of every day in imaginary worlds. But even your imagination has one foot in reality–if I did dream up a novel set in Moscow 1963, it would inevitably contain some Philadelphia 2010. The ideas have to come from somewhere!

Sara Crowley has blogged that it is only inevitable to write from your own life, and–to write well and to write believably–it is necessary to write with authenticity. I like that. The story does not have to be set in the present, nor even on this planet, but readers need to connect with the characters and it is the writer’s responsibility to convey real emotions, real fears, real hopes, and real relationships.  And the only way to do this is to write from your own experiences.

But how do I write a novel without transparently writing about my life and calling it fiction? Will friends and family read my novel and get to know me in a new way? Or is my main character her own person?

Not only do I share some personality traits with the main character, but the novel is set in a location I know–a fictional eastern Caribbean island  loosely based on different islands I know in the Caribbean as well as some local spots in my Philadelphia neighborhood.  My novel (and my neighborhood) has a:

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